Tuesday, April 03, 2007

K-Mart "Red Light Specials"

Already half a decade past former rival regional retail failures. What's keeping a future for K-Mart?

Following a trend set last month on a story of a soon-to-be-demolished, formerly occupied K-Mart site in Derby, Connecticut; we're going to offer some more talk about K-Mart and their vacancies remaining all around the state.

Red Light Specials!
Currently, there are three vacant, remaining K-Mart sites in Connecticut; two of which leftover from the fate of a statewide purge in 2003, where by the company sought to close under performing locations in light of their recent Sears-K-Mart Holdings merger. Orange; Bull Hill Lane, Derby; New Haven Avenue and Manchester; Spencer Street, are the latest remaining locations that have not been demolished or occupied. While not as troubled as other retailers since past, like Ames; who has a slowly declining number of vacant properties around Connecticut, K-Mart, who actually still an active retailer is having trouble getting rid of these lingering husks.

Manchester; an original location built in the early 1970's, once like most K-Mart stores then included an auto center, since converted into an expanded Garden Shop, shuttered in 2003 along with Derby; who occupied that location after Jordan Marsh and their closure; both underperforming stores in somewhat shifted areas.

Orange; on Bull Hill Lane, is one of particular spotlight in that it's been vacant since 1988. That's right, a nearly twice-decade vacant, withering away, boarded-up store sitting silently in the back of a widely occupied, yet somewhat dilapidated strip mall neighboring a once long-vacant Bradlees which has since succeeded and bloomed into vitality as Kohl's less than a couple years ago. This location in Orange resembles a few others Vernon and Milford; the latter built in 1980.

A 27-year, active orange-accented "Big Kmart" in Milford on Boston Post Road disagrees with its road pylon which has since dropped the "Big" one

The fate of closure occurred in two directions influenced by the Sears merger in that a handful of existing stores were converted into Sears Essentials or Sears Grand stores. Essentially, these existed as concepts; products of a Sears-K recipe no more than simple market uppers; rebranded, slightly tweeked (by offering some Sears exclusive products), heavily marketed-based focus of former K-Mart stores. Unlike rival discounters Wal-Mart and Target, K-Mart; a countrywide retailer, has been falling behind cosmetically, struggling to find a new identity for many years now.

A Sears Essentials; of a former K-Mart in Nashua, New Hampshire (one of their marketed states).

It's inarguable; one who walks into a K-Mart these days feel exactly what we felt when we stepped into a Bradlees - almost ten years ago. Musty odors abound, off-colored flourescents and floor tiles, bunkered foam-board ceilings, hive-like ventilation ducts sum up to an overall distressed, tired environment which contrasts darkly on its rather energetic television adverts. They certainly don't match that of Wal-Mart and Target; the latter who distinguishes itself with equally trendy stores and ads to match for an overall successful package.

One might even think who keeps these stores alive? Who shops here anymore? Wal-Mart haters? Those detered by Target and its exuberant trends? Certainly, catering to a largely unchanged market and one that died with the Caldor, Bradlees, Ames and Woolworth deaths around the millennial turn.

But K-Mart doesn't want to be Wal-Mart (an otherwise heavily "targeted" retailer). Doesn't want to be Target. They can almost sell themselves, right? After all, when you've got a largely household Americana name and have been for over half a century, attention K-Mart shoppers, you've got to simply adapt and shape up beyond their antiquated charm. That, of course, is a bit more complicated when the money's not flowing like the current peaking discounters who, unlike old K, is currently in expansion years. So when K-Mart sought the opportunity to add Sears, an equally prominent American company, to its family, they saw yet another opportunity to get right back up there. Like K-Mart, Sears is currently, and has been for years, trying to revive the flourish and appeal stores had in the 60's and 70's by offering their own concepts beyond the decades' old cosmetics of their stores.

Influencing Sears with the identity-K-risis, K-Mart has since attempted conceptual exterior designs in past years, more so than any time in their history; lime green paint, and other hollow cosmetic marketing strategies beyond their Essentials and Grand couples added the trafficking of formerly Sears exclusive products to prop up staggering, and or lesser performing K-Mart sites. Most store interiors are aging, featuring mere Sears associations, signage updates to pass off for tired decor. However, none of these concepts struck the Connecticut market as it did in neighboring New Hampshire and Pennsylvania markets, especially the latter where K-Mart stores still are near dominate in the landscape. Both Essentials and Grand labels were concepts, one of many the zeal of a Sears' influence had when it first merged with K-Mart. Like so many attempts before it, both brands, which have launched over the years, have died, now leftover from those years.

Photo Galleries
Below is a bunch of galleries from all the reported vacant stores in Connecticut.

In there, you'll find an earlier set from Summer 2006, which was stretching it's third year of vacancy in July. March turned out to be a relatively unaltered set of photos, finding a new set of realtor signs and a perimeter fence closing off the access to the store frontage from a March 2007 revisit. Since I didn't take as many upon the revisit, enjoy a bunch of other sites of interest in there...

July 2006
March 2007


March 2007 (
If only you could've heard those seagulls that day!)

March 2007